Spanning painting, performance, video and writing, Adam Pendleton’s (b. 1984) practice is profoundly eclectic and critical. The artist engages with problematics inherent to mechanisms of representation, delving into language, abstraction and the notion of ‘blackness’. Working predominantly in black and white, Pendleton unpicks and deconstructs dominant historical, political, socio-cultural and aesthetic discourses, putting forward alternative narratives. Within his own concept of ‘Black Dada’, the artist investigates the past in order to ‘imagine alternate presents’. Relying on appropriation, Pendleton creates works merge references ranging from Dadaism to the Black Arts Movement.
‘Pendleton is a rare artist in his ability to synthesise disciplines and mediums, and to steer with collaborators towards “total works”, which yet remain drafts of a larger essayistic practice. His works — like those of his many avant-garde forebears—are experimental in the truest sense. He sets up a laboratory in which our social and political desires can appear, however fleetingly. Historical materials (images, sounds, and printed language) become a point of departure for making present what cannot be grasped by representations of history (narratives, archives): the emergence of events and situations, which can only become known retroactively. Recent live art has rarely been more conscious of its origins in civil disobedience and the civil rights movement, where we view the body as a site of social antagonism, and as a “case” for struggles for recognition and justice. With Pendleton’s work, even though we are often left with aporias and blind spots, we feel the force of historical matter self-organizing and finding form beyond representability and essence. We discover the protest of the object—works of art and performance resisting their subsumption by common epistemological frameworks and modes of narration posing as truth.’
T. Donovan, ‘Adam Pendleton’, in BOMB Magazine, 2011